Book Review: The Unthinkable: who survives when disaster strikes and why by Amanda Ripley


            Never read nonfiction?  The book The Unthinkable might be the one that changes your mind.  Difficult to put down, this book combines case studies (aka true stories) with fascinating new research on disasters and human behavior.  Drawing from airplane crashes, stampedes, sinkings, fires, and more, Ripley takes us through the human reaction processes we all experience, explaining them and showing ways we can cope and improve our chances in the event of a disaster. 

            Elia Zedeno, survivor of both the 1993 and 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, recounts her evacuations, telling the unbelievable story of the tremendous lurch when the first plane hit, descending 73 floors, fighting a temporary loss of vision, and suffocating mouthfuls of ash and dust.

            Some of the most surprising new information comes from the blood work done on Special Forces.  These individuals have drastically different chemical results—but the question remains:  did their experiences change their blood chemistry or did their blood chemistry change their experiences? Only more studies will tell us, if we really want to know.

            If you don’t have time to read the entire book, at least skim it and learn what you can expect from yourself and others, learn what you can do to improve your chances in any situation.  This is one book I am really glad I read.